Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Epstein-Friedman divorce: Actions of Rabbis Kamenetsky and Schacter

Guest Post by Izzy

The actions of Rabbis Kamenetsky and Schachter in the Epstein-Friedman matter unfortunately illustrate the severe problems caused by rabbonim and roshei yeshiva who have very close family and/or financial and personal connections to one party in a dispute intervening in a one-sided fashion to further inflame the dispute – all the while being treated as impartial and neutral arbiters and judges in such dispute.

Epstein and Friedman brought their dispute to the Baltimore Beis Din, which held several hearings into the case and did not require that Friedman give a get or issue any other ruling against him. Epstein violated the Baltimore Beis Din’s orders regarding dismissing the civil court trial that Friedman had delayed by eight months in order to bring the case to the Baltimore Beis Din. Epstein successfully argued in civil court that her unilateral relocation of the child from Maryland to Pennsylvania should be treated as a fait accompli because of the time that had elapsed between the relocation and the trial. Epstein also successfully asked the court to arrange a custody schedule where much of the child’s time with Friedman was rendered moot because of Shabbos.

Epstein then involved the Washington Beis Din, which ruled that it could not get involved given that the parties had brought the matter to the Baltimore Beis Din whose orders Epstein had violated.

Epstein turned to Rabbi Kamenetsky who issued public letters attacking Friedman and his family. Rabbi Kamenetsky has longstanding personal and financial relationships with Epstein’s family, which are widely known and have actually appeared in various newspapers. Rabbi Kamenetsky should have been widely condemned for weighing in on this matter in favor of a family to whom he has such close ties, and his completely contradicting the decision of the Beis Din to which the parties had actually brought the matter. Instead, many in the Orthodox community simply disregarded the Baltimore Beis Din and gave credence to Rabbi Kamenetsky’s denunciations of Friedman.

Rabbi Hershel Schachter and ORA, of which Rabbi Schachter serves as posek, then jumped into the matter claiming that the position of the beis din chosen by the parties should be disregarded because Rabbi Kamenetsky had taken the opposite position. Even while the Baltimore Beis Din said that Friedman had not committed any wrongdoing and that actions against him were wrong, ORA insisted upon demonstrating against Friedman and also against the Washington Beis Din for refusing to intervene against Friedman.

Think about this: two parties brought a matter to a beis din. One party didn’t like the beis din’s decision, so that party gets a rosh yeshiva with whom that party has close personal connections to publicly attack the other party?! And then Rabbi Schachter declares that the beis din is irrelevant because the rosh yeshiva is a godol and incites communal attacks on the other party?! This outrageous behavior makes a mockery of halacha, the very concept of a beis din, and the Orthodox community.

If the tactics were meant to coerce a get, the tactics were not working. But the fact that Rabbis Kamenetsky and Schachter were able to get away with such outrageous behavior, not only against Friedman and his family, but against the Baltimore Beis Din and the Washington Beis Din, just incited them to more outrageous behavior.

Eventually, Rabbi Kamenetsky was able to cobble together a so-called beis din to purport to issue a “seruv” against Friedman. The “beis din” did not even pretend to function as anything other than a kangaroo court. The “beis din” did not bother issuing even a single hazmana, but started off with a “hasra’a acharona” [final warning] demanding that Friedman give a get, thus issuing its ruling before even commencing any proceedings. Rabbi Kamenetsky signed the purported “seruv” while Rabbi Schachter added his signature. Another signatory was Rabbi Moredchai Wolmark, who was recently arrested by the FBI, along with several others, on charges of ordering a kidnapping and beating of a man in order to obtain a get. Several of the co-conspirators have already pleaded guilty. The competence of Rabbi Wolmark, or the complete lack thereof, was demonstrated by the fact that Rabbi Wolmark ordered the kidnapping and beating of a fictional husband regarding a marriage that did not exist. Two other signatories have been alleged to be involved in similar beatings in the past. That anyone would assign any credence to the actions of this “beis din,” particularly given that the parties had previously brought the matter to another beis din, is beyond absurd – but yet many did.

Subsequently, Friedman was attacked by several masked individuals while returning the child to Epstein’s house on Tisha Ba’av in July 2012, in an apparent attempted kidnapping and beating. The attack endangered not only Friedman’s life but that of the child. But still, few rabbonim were willing to denounce the outrageous behavior, and instead many continued to publicly attack Friedman and his family instead.

This just further emboldened Rabbi Kamenetsky to believe that any actions he undertakes, no matter how directly contrary to halacha, will receive wide acceptance if those actions are undertaken on behalf of a wealthy and influential family. But all the public attacks against Friedman were not working. And the attractiveness of ordering another assault against Friedman apparently diminished after the FBI sting operation. The idea that Epstein should come to a reasonable resolution of all matters, despite the fact that she is part of a powerful family accustomed to getting its way, seems to be something that Rabbi Kamenetsky never even considered, proclaiming that there was nothing to negotiate. When another rav in Philadelphia attempted to initiate negotiations, he was told in no uncertain terms by the Epsteins to mind his own business.

So it should not be that surprising that in December 2013, two months following the aforementioned FBI arrests, ORA publicly announced that Tamar is “free” although she has not received a get – apparently approved by Rabbi Kamenetsky. Given the acceptance of his outrageous behavior until now, it should not be surprising that Rabbi Kamenetsky would believe that this too will be accepted.


  1. I do not believe for a moment that Rabbi Kamenetzky said that Tamar Epstein is free to remarry today without having received a Get. All the claims that he purportedly supported such a thing are baseless, misinterpretations, misquotes and pure assumptions. Rabbi Kamenetzy never said such a thing and does not believe such a thing.

    1. before making a fool of yourself why don't you call him up and ask him yourself!

    2. lost the chezkas kashrusMay 21, 2014 at 2:28 AM

      Have you read what ORA said ???? Who are they relying upon ????? Did you read the conversation that Joe Orlow had ???? Or did you just wake up today and ,like the rest of us, assume that it is so prepopsterous he couldn't have said it ?

    3. Yes, I read Joe Orlow. He was unsure himself in his recollection of part of the conversation he had. He was not definitive and was making assumptions.

      No one has ever provided direct word for word quotes from Rabbi Kaminetzky where he unambiguously said he believes Epstein can remarry today.

    4. Here is a solution. Take Joe up on his offer and, assuming all parties consent, record the conversation so that we all may hear it. Then there will no more confusion.

      I suggest that you ask specifically if Tamar is free to marry today.

      If the Rav says yes, then please ask him for the reasoning behind his ruling.

  2. Chezkas Kashruth,
    You are entitled to believe for a moment or two anything you want. The rest of us will think differently. The difference is that the rest of us, like me, are not ashamed to sign our real names.

    Dovid Eidensohn

    1. You're free to feel differently. The rest of us know the truth as I expounded it.

  3. I got a call from somebody who asked me how I could publicly attack such a great person as RSK. I would like to explain something about that here. A prominent person was attacked by another prominent person. People asked the attacked person to fight back, but he refused. He said that he knows the faults of the person who attacked him, but the general public does not know it. Therefore, if he responds and reveals that the person who attacked him is this that or the other thing, people will assume it is all lies because he is simply defending himself. And there is some merit to that.

    But the people who attack rbk and his son here have nothing personally involved with them, and do it only leshaim shomayim. Secondly, everybody knows that the Epstein family follows the Kaminetskies and is very close to them. Third of all, the fact that even modern Orthodox rabbis who trample on the laws of Gittin to back ORA do not support Epstein's claim to be free, and not a single rabbi has supported her saying she is right in halacha, we have a right to ask why the Kaminetskies did not stop her from declaring she is free without a GET, and why they did not publicly disassociate themselves from what she is doing. They prove my point, that they are backing her, and if they are backing her, we must attack not her but them. A greater Chilul HaShem than what the Kaminetskies are doing I not only never saw, but I never heard of it. This is one of the main reasons I have constantly hammered at those who twist the laws of Gittin. The time will come when people will realize that such leniencies produce real mamzerim, and they will ask why nobody protested. Well, I protested. I alone and those who attack Kaminetskies will not be ashamed when the child mamzer walks into shul.

    1. but... you forgot to advocate systematic paternity tests for chatan and kallah, before every marriage, in order to avoid the other mamzerim. You know, the real mamzerim, the cukoo children whose father is not the one who thinks he is.

      So I cannot take you seriously.

    2. False Chumrahs produce Mamzeirim. There are some poskim who feel that any pressure whatsoever on a husband will produce an invalid Get, and so they actively or passively support those men who withhold the Get as a means of torturing their wives extorting better terms from them. That happens often enough to create a Get-Refusal crisis, and a frum public that is willing to support Rabbonim who utilize torture. I have yet to meet a frum Jew who doesn’t personally know women who were extorted for a Get. Those who stood by and did nothing are responsible for the inevitable backlash.

    3. Over 100 words in your comment yet not even one hints to a source. Big Mistake.

  4. Chezkas Kashrus,

    My phone number is (301) 754-1128.

    Call me.

    With you on the line, I will call the Talmudical Yeshiva of Philadelphia.

    You will ask Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky: "Can Tamar Epstein remarry today?"

    1. A Breadth of Fresh AirMay 21, 2014 at 2:58 PM

      Joe - Beautiful retort!

      Straight as an arrow!

    2. A Breadth of Fresh AirMay 21, 2014 at 2:59 PM


      Beautifully stated.

      Staright as an arrow!

    3. Mr. Orlow:

      Before we do this conference call are you willing to publicly state here on this public forum that you are confident that Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky shlit"a will reply "YES" when he is asked "Can Tamar Epstein remarry today?"

      If so, state here your confidence that will be his response. If not, let that be reflected on the record here.

    4. Chezkas -
      And let's say he hems and haws and obfuscate?. What does that prove?

      That we unfortunately have certain Gedolim that are not unlike that proverbial "Rov" who said to belligerent Baalei Din that EACH one is right... and then told a confused observer that e too is right - that it's really impossible for both to be right?

      Are you saying that our Emunas Tzadikim needs to stay intact even when RK is not willing to state his position clearly and syill allows his name to be used to besmirch the hallachically innocent husband?

      Who was Matir the husband's blood????

      Is Emunas Tzadikim a heter for הלבנת פני חבירו ברבים???

      Is all of Choshen Mishpot dead???

    5. "Yes." He holds Tamar Epstein can remarry without a Get.

      "No." He holds Tamar Epstein is not "free."

      Can anyone ever say with certainty in advance what someone else will say?

      Rabbi Shalom Kamenetsky indicated to me that Tamar Epstein was permitted to remarry. Would Rabbi Shalom Kamenetsky permit Tamar Epstein to remarry in opposition to Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky?

      What Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky will say in response to your asking him, "Can Tamar Epstein remarry today?" is something we can only find out by your asking the question.

      (301) 754-1128. If I don't pick up, please leave a message and I'll get back to you, or please try again a little later.

    6. Joe

      I must commend you for diligence in attempting to hear these things from their source, and you willingness to facilitate that for others as well.

      Please keep us informed.

    7. Joe

      Why don't you take up Rabbi Michael Tzadok's above suggestion to make the call, record it, ask the question and post it here. You don't need anyone else to call you and conference in on the call; you can make it yourself. If for whatever reason recording it is not possible, still ask the direct unambiguous question and transcribe the precise question and answer.


  5. There was once a rav that used to give heter hoiro'oh for bachurim that studied for it, after having them farherd of course. They mamesh learnt it "Lah Lishmah", just to be able to do a better shiduch. Of course it is only echod me'elef lehoiro'oh, and they paid a hefty sum for the test and for the "Ksav" when they truly deserved it. The money had to be paid up front, and the other 999 also got something for their monies worth. For them it so stated, that "after farhering R' such and such", I can assure that if he continued studying torah he will grow into a godol beyisroel. That is as if to say, for the time being no dice, if you get my drift. The same applies here with "Get Lechumre", that after all the hevel havolim and pilpulim shel doifi and concocting up a witches brew with nameless and factless makeh beseser beilum shem type entities and after reciting and chanting the lachash belohotehem of 'Abracadabra'אברא כדברא , she is "FREE", provided she gets a "Get LechAmre". Of course, till then, teshev ad shetalbin sa'aroh, is the key my friend. Do me a favor, Tze ubasser lasussim vachamorim. A simple example of, Back to square one. If you still didn't get it, here is something to clarify. read on:

    Every other day, there is someone claiming to have invented the ultimate mouse trap. This guy came up with his brilliant version of a contraption. You buy a pack of his magic potion of salt, tickle the mouse till he starts laughing, and while having his mouth still open, pour the salt into his mouth and 'walla', good riddens. Comes along this wise man of chelem and asks, "if you already have the mouse captured, you can easily get rid of it in many other imaginable ways, why do I need the salt for? The inventor grants him, Yes of course my son, that is also feasible.

  6. Something has to be done to stop baseless lies against men. In the meir kin lonna kin case too, the seiruv was issued from a kangaroo court comprising of herschel schachter, avrohom union and nochum sauer. These court does not exist but was huddled together just one time and without sending meir any hazmonos, issues a seiruv against him. everybody has totally ignored a letter issued by rabbi ginzburg from Agudas Harabonim Bais din warning other rabbis not to issue a seiruv as Lonna Kin had him Gagged by court order to prevent him from revealing to a bais Din what she has done at home. Her manipulation of the civil courts and Bais Din system explains why he got a Heter Mea Rabbonim and remarried in March 2014 after leaving a GET. Unfortunately ORA wants to keep her as a poster child and she still today refuses to negotiate an end. Therefore it is ORA who creates these "self-made agunas" and misleads the public to believe that there is an Aguna crisis in America today

  7. Houston, we have a ProblemMay 21, 2014 at 5:12 PM

    Houston, we have a Problem

    The mishneh zogt, Beikvosei demeshichei chutzpe yasgei, yasgei Big Time mashme. We have Ziknei mamrei, Beis Din Chotzuf, klovim rule, Money yeaver, Cattle prods matriach H'kbh to form tzuras mamzerim, Hatores nedorim of eishes ish behetech petech meah vearboim ra bonim, Moitzoe shem ra's, umotzi assirim upoideh menuvolim bepidyon shvuyim bakessef molei, umatirei kol minei assurim of toras imecho, ma'achilei neveilos utreifos veshorei lan kevosei be'muter muter, busser busser, kusher kusher, hefker petrushke hefker, vekol shaar minei divrei bela. Oy no lonu, shuolim 'gedeilim' mechablim bakromim, umarbitzei pirchochim be'egrof resha, marbitzei glollim shel yoisher ('phooey') al gabei tilei tilim shetzachanoso oileh kigraf shel rei'i. Oy ledor she'eilu manhigov, veoy va'avoy shekach olso lo beyomov. veze rak miktzas shvochov.

    And that is all I have to say, betzaar uvyogoin rav becherposeinu.

  8. The first sentence/paragraph asserts that RSK and RHS acted inappropriate because of their personal and/or financial connection to the Epsteins. That is completely untrue. RHS had no personal or financial connection to the Epsteins prior to this incident.

    So, you may disagree with his halachic decisions but to imply that he is twisting halacha because of a personal or financial motive is complete nonsense.

    1. James:

      False! The Epsteins helped found the Kollel.

      Here's what "Curious" posted:

      The Dr. David E Epstein z"l Memorial Lecture.

      Dr. David Epstein, MD was one of the Kollel's founders as well as the President of the Board of Directors from 2002-2004. His contribution throughout every stage of our growth were key to the successes that nurtured the Kollel from a once-fledgling organization into the community bastion of Torah learning that it is today. Dr. Epstein was a consummate physician, a model builder of Torah and community, and most of all a loving son, husband and father. A dedication plaque in his memory graces the Beis Medrash entrance in our lobby. In recognition of his integral role in our history, we name the Annual Lecture event "The Dr. David E Epstein z'1 Memorial Lecture." We hope it will provide an additional source of merit to his neshama for many years to come.

    2. ORA publiclly stated that an "anonymous" donor paid for the billboards against mr f. The assumption is that the E family paid for that, as well as the busses usedto bus "demonsttrators" against the f family (which they also admitted was donated.

      Thus RHS has a financial interest in the e family, which should be disclosed. Not that RHS needs a finanCial interest, as he is personally amenable to such actions.

    3. The Epstein family's finanicial support of and personal involvement in many Orthodox institutions in Philadelphia, including those connected to the Kamenetskys, is a matter of public record. These activities are laudable, but it is also clear that Rabbis Kamenetsky have longstanding personal and financial ties to the Epstein familiy.

      Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky has longstanding close relationships with the Epstein family [For example See Dr. Dovid Epstein, z’l, Yated Ne’eman, May 4, 21012 (noting how close Dr. Epstein was to Rabbi Kamenetsky and featuring a picture of the two, and Dr. Epstein’s involvement in the Philadelphia Orthodox community); “Dr. Epstein [Tamar’s father] was an active supporter of Talmudical Yeshiva of Philadelphia [of which Rabbi Kamenetsky is founder and rosh yeshiva], a religious school for Orthodox Jewish boys and young men in Overbrook. He volunteered his medical services to the school and was on call to care for the students 24/7, said a close friend, Rick Goldfein [Tamar’s Rabbinical Court lawyer and press spokesman].”

  9. I suspect the Kamenetzky's are trying to bluff the husband into giving the get. By giving the impression that a Get isn't even necessary and only "lechumra", they might feel they can trick him into complying.

  10. Not even chachomim leheira. Sof dovor hakol nishma, es elokim yerei ve'es mitzvoisov shmoir, ki ze kol ha'adam. You can fool some of the people some of the time, you cannot fool all of the people all of the time. Sooner or later we all find out the personal interests that are and have been involved. What a shame for the neshomo over this whole pesha veresha to Mr. f, while accrediting to Mr. E's zechus loy olenu. ORA and it's cohorts will bee trapped in the kaf hakela lanetzach netzochim, vetipach ruchom, veyihyu tzruro bitzroiros shel avonim leolmei ad. Have you no shame? Have you no decency?

    If she has a true valid heter of being FREE and only a mechuser Get lechumra if there ever exists such a thing*, here is a complete heter for her lachofshi chinom. I FREE her of any residue chashash of eishes ish klall uklall due to the mitzvos esse of "ki lo letohu broah, elo losheves yetzorah", and doche the lo sa'ase needed only lechumra. VeHarei hi bechezkas vaday bilti metuloim ubegapoi yovo ubegapoi yetze, of hekeish biah leyetzia. In the spirit of Glasnost, I openly declare the heter for all to know, and rather mekarev eduso. A guten Purim in a Gittin Tomid.

    * If you are successful in being oiker a Kiddushin deorayso with whatever widgetry, then there is no chashash of being an eishses ish altogether. If you are choishesh that the AKIRA is not valid, then the execution of a Get is necessary MIDEOIRAYSO, and not only lechumrei. That is why I do not believe even for one moment in Abracadabra hocus pocus secret makeshift kangaroo beis din meachoirei hapargod.

  11. So Shalom Kaminetsky defies his father?


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